Pavilion I: From Paid to Enslaved

John Emmet's Accomodation of Enslaved Workers in Pavilion I

As the first occupant of Pavilion I, John P. Emmet, demonstrates, the faculty did not all share the same opinion about slavery nor did they necessarily maintain their opinion during their time at the University of Virginia.  Emmet, who resided in Pavilion I from 1824 to 1842 and was the Professor of Natural History, initially employed paid servants.  However, he became dissatisfied and inquired about slaves.[1]  Like other faculty at the University of Virginia, Emmet also hired slaves from Jefferson’s family.[2]  Emmet’s conscience seemed to waver as he did attend a fair in 1830 to raise money for the Colonization Society to recolonize freed slaves in Liberia.[3]

In 1826, he expressed concern that the cold and unventilated basement was causing his slaves to become ill.[4]  This confirms our suppositions that the basement spaces were indeed occupied by slaves, possibly for work and living quarters.  That same year, Emmet proposed to the Proctor a licensing system so that only licensed slaves could serve the students.[5]  This was intended to minimize intruders and ensure safety.  Catherine Neale indicates that licensing was also helpful with the hiring of new slaves and turnover of hotelkeepers.[6]


Pavilion I Rendering prior to 1830s Addition in JUEL (Lauren Massari)

In 1828, Emmet requested an addition “to provide accommodation for Servants” as well as a staircase to the attic.[7]  As his family grew, he may have needed additional space for his own use as well as more slaves to work for the family.  The staircase construction suggests a need to use the space, possibly for slave accommodation or storage.  The Board of Visitors established rules that these additions could not exceed two apartments per hotel or pavilion and the expense could not exceed $100.[8]  This request was not approved until the Board of Visitors meeting on July 10, 1832.[9]  By this point, additions for the accommodation of slaves had already been built for Professors Tucker, Bonnycastle, and Harrison.  This one-story addition was built, though it is unclear if it was an outbuilding or attached to the house.  Archaeologist Ben Ford proposes that the “addition” was an adjacent structure.[10]  It was demolished at some point prior to an 1850s addition that was two stories tall.

Pavilion I Rendering after 1850s Addition (Ding Zhang based on Lauren Massari's model)

Additionally, there were two square structures on the northwest and southwest corners of this addition, resulting in a racially segregated yard space.[11]   Slaves worked in the south yard and the faculty family occupied the garden space.  This image below of the water systems at the University also reveals that the north serpentine wall of the Pavilion I garden has been demolished, possibly due to the large addition to Hotel A, which occupies most of the Hotel A garden/work yard, and a changing use of this landscape.

North <-            

"Grounds, 1870" (GeoSpatial Engineering Services, University of Virginia)

Emmet’s personal records do not mention any specific slaves.  However, it has been recorded that a slave cut down the fruit trees in the Pavilion I garden after the family moved to Morea in 1835.[12]  Another anecdote reveals that a slave named Ben sold fermented liquor in the Pavilion I basement in 1825.  It is not known if he made the liquor but he did sell to university slaves.  The Board of Visitors swiftly ended this business.[13]  Emmet had nine slaves upon his death in 1942, including six children.[14]

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[1] “Slavery at the University of Virginia: Visitor’s Guide,”   See also Catherine S. Neale, Slaves, Freedpeople and the University of Virginia (BA Thesis, University of Virginia, 2006), 29, and Philip Alexander Bruce, History of the University of Virginia 1819-1919: The Lengthened Shadow of One Man, volmue II (New York: Macmillan, 1920), 16-17.
[2] Gayle M. Schulman, "Slaves at the University of Virginia" (Unpublished paper, University of Virginia, 2003), 5.
[3] Harrison, Smith, Tucker Papers, Gessner Harrison to Peachy Harrison, May 13, 1830. UVA Special Collections.
[4] University of Virginia Proctor’s Papers, Box 7, Folder “Correspondence 1828 AUG-OCT,” 9 August 1828. UVA Special Collections.
[5] Neale, Slaves, 20, see also “Proctor’s Papers, Box 6, Folder “J. P. Emmet to A. S. Brockenbrough,” 5 February 1826.” UVA Special Collections.
[6] Neale, Slaves, 20.
[7] Board of Visitors Minutes, July 22, 1828, from JUEL.
[8] Board of Visitors Minutes, October 11, 1828, from JUEL.
[9] Board of Visitors Minutes, July 10, 1832, from JUEL.
[10] Board of Visitors Minutes, July 10, 1832, from JUEL. [11] Ashley Anderson, Sarah Anderson, Hannah Goldman, and Mike Mitchell, "Pavilion I: Material and Documentary Analysis" (Unpublished, University of Virginia, December 2015), 4.
[12] University of Virginia Chairman of the Faculty Journal, 1836, from JUEL.
[13] Neale, Slaves, 26, see also Proctor’s Papers, Box 5, Folder “Prof. Robley Dunglison to A.S.B.,” 17 May 1825. UVA Special Collections.
[14] Neale, Slaves, 26, see also Will of John P. Emmet, Charlottesville City Courthouse, Will Books, Volume 15, Page 115.